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Hawks face difficult schedule in season's final stretch

The Atlanta Hawks will face a tough schedule during the final stretch of the season as they try to improve their playoff positioning.

Kevin C. Cox

The Atlanta Hawks will emerge from the All-Star break on Wednesday when they take on the Miami Heat at Philips Arena. The Hawks will have 31 games remaining in the regular season with 15 at home and 16 coming on the road. There is a similar split in teams that currently have winning records versus teams with losing marks. Atlanta will play 16 games against an opponent with at least a .500 record as of the All-Star break.

Atlanta is currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference but is just two games back of third place Indiana. Conversely, the Hawks are three games in front of eighth place Milwaukee with whom they have yet to play this season.

Thursday's trade deadline could alter the outlook significantly if a team like Atlanta should deal a player of Josh Smith's caliber. No matter what happens on Thursday, the Hawks will need to pull everyone together as they prepare for a six-game road trip that will take them to the west coast for the final time this season.

The Hawks head to Milwaukee for the first time this season on February 23 and will play in Detroit on the 25th. From there they head to Utah, Phoenix, Los Angeles to take on the Lakers and finally in Denver before returning home on March 6. With the East standings so tightly bunched that trip could be critical for playoff positioning.

The remaining road schedule could be especially difficult for a Hawks team that is 12-13 on the road this season. In addition to the western swing the Hawks will also make two trips to Boston and have road games left against Miami, Brooklyn, Indiana, San Antonio and New York.

Here is a look at the current Eastern Conference standings:

Eastern Standings

Miami Heat 50 36-14 .720
New York Knicks 50 32-18 .640
Indiana Pacers 53 32-21 .604
Brooklyn Nets 53 31-22 .585
Chicago Bulls 52 30-22 .577
Atlanta Hawks 51 29-22 .569
Boston Celtics 52 28-24 .538
Milwaukee Bucks 51 26-25 .510
Philadelphia 76ers 51 22-29 .431
Toronto Raptors 53 21-32 .396
Detroit Pistons 54 21-33 .389
Cleveland Cavaliers 53 16-37 .302
Washington Wizards 51 15-36 .294
Orlando Magic 52 15-37 .288
Charlotte Bobcats 52 12-40 .231